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Israel and the Middle East

A Plan for Joint Rule of the Territories

Daniel J. Elazar


What follows is an attempt to elaborate on the Oslo Declaration of Principles regarding the administered territories and to suggest a structure of governance for those territories based on federal principles. The basic idea is to integrate self-rule with power-sharing between Israel and its eastern neighbor in such a way that Israel's security and demographic interests will be reconciled with the national aspirations of Jordan and the Palestinian Arabs. This desire leads us to a confederal solution between Israel, the Palestinians, and Jordan over the areas of Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip. The Declaration of Principles already includes that possibility, hence these ideas can be seen as extensions of it.

In presenting the framework, we will concentrate on three main aspects. First, we shall present possible structures for a confederal solution. Second, we shall analyze the political and administrative organs needed to achieve it and their functions. Finally, the institutional dynamics that should animate the structure will be presented and examined.

I. Structure

The framework should be composed of three spheres of government: overarching councils, basically political in character; regional administrations; and local authorities. An optional district arrangement is also possible.

The Political Sphere: The overarching organs in this sphere will be the three Joint Councils to be composed of Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian representatives so designed as to give Israel equality with its Arab partners. Each state or entity -- Israel, Palestine, and Jordan -- will nominate its representatives. The representatives of each part will serve at the pleasure of their appointing governments. The council will nominate a secretariat and will be linked to Israel through the Prime Minister's office through appropriate counterparts in Palestine and Jordan.

The councils will be directly responsible for any or all of four functions within its sphere of authority: enactment of ordinances and by-laws; budget and fiscal management; planning; and legal coordination. All three will be activated immediately upon implementation of this plan with Israel retaining a majority of members of the joint councils in the first period.

The Administrative Sphere: This sphere will included purely Palestinian organs and mixed authorities.

a. Palestinian Organs: An administrative council will be elected by the Palestinian Arabs resident in the territories. It will operate eight departments: education; transportation; construction and housing; industry and commerce; agriculture; health, labor and social welfare; administration of justice; and interior. The interior department will be responsible for local police and municipalities. The heads of the departments will be nominated from among the members of the administrative council.

b. Mixed Authorities: There will be another seven confederal authorities which will be shared by Israel, Jordan and Palestine on a tri-lateral or bi-lateral basis. These seven authorities will be: religious affairs, trade and tourism, refugee rehabilitation, resources and development (including water, power and energy), immigration and environment (included nature reserves and historic sites), banking and currency, and posts and tele-communications. The management of each of these authorities will be vested in a board comprised of Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians. These mixed authorities will be activated as agreed upon and representation on them will be as agreed, subject to limited change as each is phased in.

The Municipal Sphere: The present municipal structure in the territories will be maintained. Municipal elections will be introduced with municipalities continuing the same internal structure and powers.

The Optional District Sphere: The area can be divided into six regions for administration and judicial purposes. The six regions will involve predominantly Arab and predominantly Jewish areas in Gaza, Judea, and Samaria. Each region will have a council. The councils will be represented in the administrative and the Joint Councils. For administrative purposes they will be under the jurisdiction of the respective Interior Departments. For law enforcement purposes they will interact with the relevant departments.

II. Powers and Functions

The Joint Councils

A. Legislative Powers:

  1. Enact by-laws or ordinances in matters within their jurisdiction.
  2. Recommend legislation in other matters to the legislative bodies of the constituting polities.
  3. Review legislation and regulations of respective state bodies on matters affecting their jurisdiction.
  4. Recommend ordinances to the administrative council.
B. Judicial Powers:

Suitable arrangements will be made for judicial jurisdiction over the authorities serving the administered territories. Residents of the territories will be under the jurisdiction of courts of the polities of which they are citizens, in the case of Israelis, branches of which will be established in the territories.

C. Fiscal Powers:

  1. Preparation of the combined budget for the area and its authorities on the basis of recommendations from the administrative council and the various authorities.
  2. Management of transfers of payments. Functions 1. and 2. will be implemented through the Office of Budget and Management.
  3. Collecting and disbursing taxes determined by the various administrative organs. This function will be regulated through the Internal Revenue Office.
D. The Councils will initiate and approve long- and short-range planning developed through the planning office.

The Administrative Council

The Administrative Council will be in charge of those administrative affairs of the Palestinian Arabs in the areas of Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip delegated to it. The administrative work will be implemented through departments responsible to the Administrative Council. The Council will submit its budget to the budget office and the Joint Council, according tot he requirements of the various departments.

The Authorities: The join authorities will be staffed on a parity basis between Jews and Arabs.

Religious Affairs Agency will be in charge of the holy places of all three religions. It will regulate the prayer hours and access accommodations, nominate managing personnel, and maintain the shrines.

Resources and Development will be in charge of the water system, the electrical grid, development of energy sources and other resources in the common areas of the confederation.

Foreign Trade and Tourism will be in charge of the ports (Gaza and access to Aqaba and Ashdod), airports (Atarot and access to Ben Gurion and Amman airports), common economic projects -- e.g. a canal from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea, export and import, hotels and tourism. It will also regulate trade between the common areas of the confederation and the constituting states as necessary.

Fiscal Control will oversee banking and control of currency.

Posts and Tele-communications: internal and international mail, television and radio stations, news dispatches, etc.

Refugee Rehabilitation: a temporary organ designed to resettle the refugees from the camps and provide professional training and jobs.

Environment will be responsible for environmental protection, ecological concerns, nature reserves and preservation, and preservation and protection of historic sites.

III. Dynamics

Political Dynamics

The general idea is to establish a mechanism of shared rule over critical areas such as security, budgeting, and immigration, while leaving administration and local government to the Palestinians. The basis for such a mechanism is the common strategic interest of all three partners. Formal and practical control over crucial functions, particularly military power, power of the purse, and legislative power by both states, will prevent the emergence of a fully independent Palestinian state. At the same time, the formal sharing of control, even if shared with Israel, should satisfy Arab sensitivity to Arab territories and provide for a reasonable expression of the demands of the Palestinians as a collectivity. Such an arrangement may also satisfy religious emotions, particularly if a Palestinian flag flies over Moslem shrines.

Formally, power will be shared not only between the constituting states, but also among the various institutions composing of confederation:

Joint council -- legislative, fiscal, trade powers;
Administrative Council -- Palestinian affairs and civil service;
Local councils -- local and municipal affairs.
Informally, actual power sharing will depend on the mechanisms that will emerge and the relations between the constituting parties as well as the new identities that may be created. In any event, the distribution of power among various institutions, and the shared-on Israeli control over capital distribution and the military will prevent the strengthening of a single Palestinian institution. Special attention should be given to two departments: interior and education.

Military Dynamics

It is recommended that any movement toward military parity be a gradual process. The general direction, depending on stability and the relations between the governments, should be from Israeli dominance towards parity by a reduction of overall military presence. Gradually, these areas can become free of heavy artillery and tank units. Thus while neither Palestine nor Jordan will be allowed to station armored forces, Israel will gradually pull out her armored units. In the final stage, both sides could locate basic training camps in these areas, and even maintain specially-trained mixed militias to keep order.

Economic Dynamics

The economic integration of the territories with Israel and Jordan should be maintained and even strengthened. This process will increase the dependence of the common areas on the constituting states and increase the interdependence between Israel and Jordan. Because of Israel's industrial and technological superiority, it can be assured that she will have the leverage in such a relationship. Moreover, Israel's control over the Mediterranean ports will give her another significant advantage. Tourism may become an economic tool for strengthening the common interest between the constituting states. The dependence of the West Bank on these states may be increased by functional sharing of certain crucial sources of energy. For instance, the electrical system may be linked to Jordanian power stations, while water and irrigation will be regulated by Mekorot. Such a cross-system of interdependence and dependence will increase the mutual interests for maintaining the status quo.

Citizenship and Elections

1. Residents of the territories will be granted free choice of either Israeli, Palestinian, or Jordanian citizenship. A resident of these areas who requests Israeli citizenship will be granted such citizenship in accordance with the laws of Israel.

2. Residents of these areas will be entitled to participate in three sets of elections: municipal government, administrative council, and the elections of the state of his citizenship. Residents who choose Palestinian or Jordanian citizenship will be entitled to vote and be elected to the palestinian council or Jordanian parliaments and those opting for Israeli citizenship will participate in Knesset elections, in accordance with laws of the respective states.

Border Adjustments

These should include the transfer to Israel of territory along the western edge of the West Bank and around Jerusalem to include approximately 70 percent of the Israeli settlers in the territories. As far as the remaining Israeli settlements, they should either be incorporated into Israel as enclaves surrounded by Palestinian territory or in some cases organized as Jewish districts under the confederal joint authorities. Where minimum contiguity is not possible, they should be offered the opportunity to remain within Palestinian territory with a status similar to that of the Arabs in Israel.

Territorial Connection

Two systems can be used to maintain connections between the territories inhabited by the various populations, Jewish and Arab. Special roads with bridges over the territories of others at key point can be built so that there are connections, for example, between the West Bank and Gaza that will run through Israel territory but will not require Israel to cede any of that territory or to be divided itself. An elevated road can be built to secure that connection. Those and other highways playing a connective role can be designated confederal highways just as in the United States there are some U.S. highways and many state highways. Those confederal highways will be under special security and police control as needed to assure mobility and access.

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